Cirque Country

Kings Canyon to Grouse Lake Route/Kings Canyon to Grouse Lake

The SHR starts from Kings Canyon at Zumwalt Meadows , just a short distance downstream from the confluence of the South Fork of the Kings River and Bubbs Creek.

The first task of traversing the Monarch Divide is to climb out of Kings Canyon (5,000') to Grouse Lake (10,500'), a subalpine lake near the crest of the Divide. The route climbs ~5,400' in only 7.5 miles, making this very difficult to do in a single day.

The first six miles are a well-built National Park trail climbing along Copper Creek which has cut a huge cleft in the Canyon's north wall.

Just south of Grouse Lake, the trail attains a ridgecrest before it descends westward into Granite Basin. Here, the SHR leaves the trail and the traveller proceeds northward through beautiful subalpine meadows to Grouse Lake.


Bubbs Creek - Named after an early prospector.

Copper Creek - Named for the copper deposits located there and mined in the late 19th Century.

Goat Mountain (12,206) - Named (mistakenly) for the Bighorn Sheep that originally inhabited the area.

Granite Basin - Brewer's field party of the First California Survey camped here in 1864.

Kanawyer's (site) - Napoleon ("Poly") Peter Kanawyer (1849-1908) mined copper up Copper Creek starting in the 1880s and built a summer cabin at this site for his family. The family patented some land but sold out to the government in 1938.

Monarch Divide - Originally named "Dyke Ridge" by the Whitney Survey, it was later renamed by the US Geological Survey in its first 30 minute map of the area. "Dyke" refers to Whitney's impression of the divide as volcanic in nature-a huge lava dyke separating the two rivers. (Many of Whitney's interpretations of California geology were quickly overtaken by science.)

Mt. Hutchings (10,785') - Named for James M. Hutchings, an Englishman who came to California in 1849 and was one of the first non-Indians to see Yosemite. Later, he ran a hotel there and became a prolific writer and promoter of the Sierra and Yosemite.

North Dome - First named "Pyramid of Cheops," luckily it was later renamed by John Muir in 1875.

Upper Tent Meadow - Named for a large rock which resembles a tent.

Zumwalt Meadows - Daniel Kindle Zumwalt was an important figure in the creation of Sequoia and General Grant national parks in 1890.

Below is a 2x profile of this section of the SHR. Using the time-honored Sierra Club formula of 1 hour/1,000' (vertical) + 1 hour/3 miles (horizontal), the hiking time for this section should be 7.9 hours plus breaks.

On the Copper Creek trail as it emerges from the forest of Kings Canyon.

The view is looking upstream to the east. The Middle Fork Kings emerges from the canyon just past the first ridge on the left in this picture - Bubbs Creek comes in from the canyon in the center.

On the upper right is a feature on the south Canyon wall known as "The Sphinx."

Kings Canyon exhibits the Sierra's classic features of glaciation and exfoliation. It's like a relatively unspoiled version of Yosemite. Not as many distinctive landmarks, but awesome nonetheless.

A bit higher up on the Copper Creek trail. The Sphinx (8,800') dominates the view and also supplies a measure of progress on the long climb.

The Sphinx was named by John Muir in a 1891 magazine article.

The hanging valley formed by Sphinx Creek is visible on the south wall of the Bubbs Creek canyon. There is a trail going up Bubbs Creek to points southeast. From that trail forks another trail up into Sphinx Creek'ss hanging valley and to points south.

Nearly level with The Sphinx, this point is over 3,000' above the South Fork Kings River.

More of Sphinx Creek's hanging valley is visible.

The high peak to the left of The Sphinx is Cross Peak (12,850').

A view of the Sphinx Crest from Upper Tent Meadow. Mt Brewer (13,570') is on the left, the high peak on the right is Mt. Palmer (11,250').

The view of Granite Basin from the divide between it and the Grouse Lake/Copper Creek basin. This is where the SHR leaves the trail and begins the cross-country traverse of Monarch Divide to nearly its junction with the Sierra Crest.

Heading cross-country toward Grouse Lake. Goat Mountain is on the right, but from this angle, its summit is hidden by a south ridge.

A beautiful subalpine meadow below Grouse Lake. This is the main tributary of Copper Creek.

Campsite at Grouse Lake, looking west.

After lunch, we set out to climb Goat Mountain. The campsite is just below pyramid-shaped mountain, Mt. Hutchings (10,785').

En route to Goat Mountain. Grouse Lake is now hundreds of feet below this point.

Some solid Class III

A view of the divide between Granite Basin and Grouse Lake. The diagonal slabs will be the start of the next section of the SHR, Grouse Lake to Goat Crest.

Panorama from Goat Mtn. (Larger version - 612kB)